The jailing of Ethiopia’s popular music star, Teddy Afro, on manslaughter charges after a nine-month-long trial, dominated the headlines of Ethiopia’s daily newspapers this week.
Ethiopia’s independent newspapers splashed the headlines of Teddy Afro’s sentencing to six years in jail for a hit and run car incident, which is believed to have killed a homeless man in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian star, whose real name is Tewodros Kasahun, has grown in popularity for his reggae hit songs, also classified as “national anthem” for opposition supporters.
At this year’s Great Ethiopian Run, where close to 30,000 people, including foreigners participated, runners shouted the name “Teddy Afro-Obama,” in a rare show of solidarity with the musician, whose case was due to be heard and determined later in the week.
“Teddy sent to Jail for six years,” the weekly business publication, Capital, wrote on this week’s edition, saying that it was a “sad day” for the “revered musician” after he was found guilty of manslaughter in the car accident.
“Justice has not been served, I have been deprived of justice. I didn’t kill any one,” Capital quoted the musician as shouting out after the guilty verdict was pronounced against him by the Federal High Court’s eight Criminal Bench in Addis Ababa.
The newspaper reported that Million Assefa, his lawyer, was expected to appeal the verdict at the Federal Supreme Court.
The story stated that supporters of the musician and fans together burst into tears, leading to intensified security around the court premises in anticipation of sudden protests.
Teddy was detained in November 2006 and later released on a 50,000 birr bail (US $5,000) before he was re-arrested in April 2008 and sent to prison after he was charged of fleeing the scene of accident without reporting the incident.
The Fortune newspaper, also a business weekly, ran long stories about what it termed as the musician’s “controversial litigation”.
The Fortune, which extensively tried to explain the circumstances under which the musician was found guilty, said he had fled from the scene of an accident, which would then be considered a homicide under the country’s penal code.
The criminal code, Fortune reported, considers any motorist who flees 15 km away from a scene of an accident to have committed manslaughter, whose fine is between five to 15 years and a US$2,000 fine. Teddy will face both.
Fortune reported the Judge, Leul Gebremariam, telling the defendant that he had been given the minimum sentence for the charges.
“The aim of the panel code is more corrective than punitive,” Justice Leul was quoted saying. ‘That is why the court has sentenced the defendant to minimum penalties.
The judge said his ruling was not motivated by vendetta.